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Marine Mammal Protection in an Era of Expanded Ocean Development
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This is a Lunch & Learn (i.e. brown-bag) event; beverages and dessert will be provided but please bring your own lunch.

When: Wednesday, April 3, 2019
12:00 noon - 1:30 pm
Where: The Ocean Foundation
1320 19th Street NW
5th Floor
Washington, District of Columbia  20036
United States

Online registration is closed.
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WCEE’s Lunch & Learn Series presents

Expert Panel: Marine Mammal Protection in an Era of Expanded Ocean Development


Marine mammals (whales, seals, sea lions, manatees, polar bears, dolphins, walrus, and sea otters) are essential to a healthy ocean ecosystem but also vulnerable to human activity. Government programs created by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA) help protect these animals from harm and nonprofits are active partners in this effort. Recent proposals to increase oil and gas and wind energy development offshore and in the Arctic, adjust fisheries management, and consider revising marine sanctuary boundaries have raised concerns about potential harm to these species. Scientists and conservationists strive for smart ocean management that provides protections while balancing the need for energy, fishing, and shipping industries.

Hear from a panel of experts about the government and NGO initiatives working to protect marine mammals and balance ocean management priorities.

Dr. Shannon Bettridge, Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division in NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources, Dr. Peter Thomas, Executive Director of the Marine Mammal Commission, and Mark Spalding, President of the Ocean Foundation, will speak to WCEE about the government programs charged with protecting these species, NGO initiatives with the same aim, and current issues of importance in balancing competing needs in our ocean environments (speakers' bios are posted below.)

Date: Wed, April 3, 2019

Time: 12:00 noon to 1:30 pm

Venue: The Ocean Foundation, 1320 19th St NW, Washington, DC 20036    

Closest Metro: Dupont Circle (Red)

Cost: $5 (WCEE members); $20 (non-WCEE members)

Registration: In-person or via telephone dial-in 

Telephone dial-in Info: Will be sent to registrants after registering for the event. If you don't hear from us, please email Robin Robinson at for the dial-in info.


This is a Lunch & Learn (i.e. brown-bag) event; beverages and dessert will be provided but please bring your own lunch.

WCEE is grateful to

The Ocean Foundation

for the use of its conference facilities

Speaker's Bios:

Dr. Shannon Bettridge is the Chief of the Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division in NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources. During her thirteen years with NOAA, she has worked on a variety of marine mammal conservation projects implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act. These include developing a rule aimed at reducing the risk of ship strikes to North Atlantic right whales; chairing a global status review of humpback whales (which supported a change in ESA listing for the species); working on regulations for subsistence hunting by Alaska Natives; recovery planning for large whales; and coordinating marine mammal stock assessment reporting. Before joining NOAA, Dr. Bettridge was the Program Coordinator for the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program within the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Dr. Bettridge’s interest in fisheries management was piqued while a student at Sea Education Association (SEA), out of Woods Hole, MA.  It was while studying marine biology and marine social sciences off the coast of Canada that she observed first-hand the impacts of a fishery closure on small coastal fishing villages. Inspired by her experience at SEA, she completed her undergraduate degree in Environmental Policy at the University of Michigan and went on to earn both her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island. Her graduate and undergraduate research focused on environmental law and fisheries management.

For the decade prior to moving to Washington, D.C., Dr. Bettridge co-owned and operated a commercial lobster business in Maine. There she experienced the balancing act between the need to conserve marine resources and the impact of conservation efforts on the fishing industry. She brings to her work in the Office of Protected Resources this unusual background and perspective.

Dr. Peter Thomas is the Executive Director of the Marine Mammal Commission. He earned his Ph.D. in Animal Behavior from the University of California, Davis, with research on southern right whales at Peninsula Valdés, Argentina. In the early 1980s, he was part of a team studying bowhead whale behavior in response to seismic testing in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. As Assistant to the Director of the Minnesota Zoological Gardens (1987-1991) Dr. Thomas led a review of the zoo’s marine mammal program. He joined the U.S. State Department in 1991 as a AAAS Science and Diplomacy Fellow. Over his career at State (1991-2001) he managed U.S. policy and international negotiations on the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). He was instrumental in the creation of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) and the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and was the first ICRI Global Chair (1994-1996). From 1999-2001 Dr. Thomas served as the U.S. Advisor for Scientific and Technological Affairs to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. He joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2001 as Chief of the Division of Management Authority, the office that oversees permitting and policy for U.S. wildlife imports and exports under the CITES Convention.

Dr. Thomas joined the Marine Mammal Commission in 2008 as International and Policy Program Director, overseeing reviews of proposed actions under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and other statutes and treaties and domestic policy related to the Arctic, climate change, sound, energy development, and shipping. He led the Commission’s international work with a focus on acute marine mammal conservation issues such as the endangered vaquita porpoise, conservation of freshwater cetaceans, and the response of marine mammals to the effects of climate change. He is lead author of the 2015 assessment of the Status of the World’s Baleen Whales.

Mark J. Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation is a member of the Ocean Studies Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. He is serving on the Sargasso Sea Commission. Mark is a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Blue Economy, at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.  In addition, he serves as the CEO and President of SeaWeb, is the advisor to the Rockefeller Ocean Strategy (an unprecedented ocean-centric investment fund) and designed the first-ever blue carbon offset program, SeaGrass Grow. He is also a member of the Pool of Experts for the UN World Ocean Assessment. Mark is an expert on international environmental policy and law, as well as coastal and marine philanthropy.


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